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Cops will use grant to combat real estate fraud

City is said to be a hotbed of scams involving program for low-income families.

August 11, 2011|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com

The Glendale Police Department’s thinly-staffed Financial Crimes unit received a county grant this week to help investigate real estate fraud, which is on a rise in Glendale, officials said.

The Los Angeles County Fraud Prosecution Program awarded an $189,934 grant to the unit. The money will be used to pay for an additional detective who will be dedicated to investigating real estate fraud cases.

“We have seen in an increase in Section 8 housing fraud this year,” Glendale Police Lt. Susan Hayn said.

Section 8 is a housing program operated by the city government that provides housing vouchers to low-income families that qualify.

Detectives have seen an uptick in real estate fraud crimes, since some homeowners have become easier targets due to the economic and housing decline, Hayn said. Real estate fraud crimes are typically committed by members of the housing industry through identity theft and bogus housing applications, officials said.

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Investigating housing fraud cases is a lengthy process that can take up to 18 months, so Hayn said the five-detective unit needs additional help to build cases against violators.

Still, the funding may not be entirely used to support an additional officer because the unit is short-handed since it lost two detective positions, she said.

The unit currently has one detective specialized in real estate fraud, but Hayn said that detective also investigates other financial crimes.

Finding and training another detective to be skilled in real estate fraud will be challenging because the unit is overwhelmed with its current workload, Hayn said.

The funding may also be used to pay for overtime to allow the unit’s current detectives enough to time to investigate real estate fraud crimes, she added.

The unit also received funding last year to pay for overtime and equipment used to investigate real estate fraud, Hayn said.

Glendale was one of six police agencies who were awarded county grants to investigate housing fraud, said county Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Baker of the Real Estate Fraud Section.

Detectives work closely with prosecutors on real estate fraud cases, which often are complicated, officials said.

Still, Baker said prosecutors and Glendale detectives have been successful in their legal actions against violators.

“Some of the most egregious crimes have come from Glendale,” he said.

Scams are often seen throughout the real estate industry, but some Realtors don’t report them for fear they might be blacklisted, said Realtor Armik Avedisian, president of the Glendale Realtors Assn.

“Some people are not reporting things because they feel …this will come back at them,” he said.


 
 

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